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Bancor targets a growing market for small cap crypto assets not listed on major exchanges which typically demand high liquidity. The Bancor Network, built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, facilitates token issuance and offers an open marketplace for crypto assets with potentially thin supply, e.g. tokenized merchandise by a local music band. Tokens trade instantly, on-chain, and can be made directly from any Ethereum wallet. User fees are limited to the gas needed to process the transaction via the Ethereum blockchain. Exchanges are governed by the Bancor Protocol and a novel extension of the ERC20 token standard called Smart Token. Continuous liquidity and deterministic price slippage is guaranteed for Smart Tokens through price and supply regulation encoded in the Smart Token contract. In effect, a Smart Token contract functions as a completely automated and decentralized central bank for the underlying token. The Smart Token standard can accommodate fiat trades (introduced in Q2 2018) and potentially non ERC20 tokens. Most notably, the protocol aims to integrate with EOSIO mainnet blockchain.  Smart Token applications are not limited to plain utility tokens. Smart Token contracts can act as a decentralized exchange for any ERC20-compliant tokens (Smart Tokens included); as a stable peg to another crypto asset (including non-ERC20 tokens, once cross-blockchain support is implemented); or serve as an intermediary token for exchanging token pairs not explicitly supported by Smart Token contracts in the network. The later is the main purpose of Bancor’s own Smart Token, BNT, which can be exchanged to all Smart Tokens in the Bancor Network rendering all token pairs in the network interchangeable. Further potential applications of Smart Tokens are described in the whitepaper including an elegant solution for on-chain price oracles. While any ERC20-compatible token can be exchanged within the Bancor Network, the team’s primary mission is to bring liquidity to low cap tokens. As the crypto economy grows, it is expected low cap crypto assets will eventually make up a significant fraction of the total market capitalisation. Similar long tail phenomenon are observed in mature online markets, for example books with too little volume to be carried by regular bookstores make up an estimated 30-40% of the titles sold on Amazon.
The main technical difference between the Bancor Network and other decentralized exchanges such as KyberNetwork or 0x is automatic market making that dynamically adjusts token supply in response to market orders. Each Smart Token has one or a few reserve tokens, called connector tokens, that can be exchanged for Smart Tokens. Each contract holds a reserve of connector tokens which is initially funded via the Smart Token issuance.  The market price is deterministic with zero spread and no counterparty needed to fill an order. Instead, the Smart Token smart contract automatically either mints or burns the required amount of Smart Tokens with an offsetting transaction to top up or withdraw from the connector token balance in return. The price at which the order is filled is calculated so that the ratio between the connector token balance and the value of outstanding Smart Tokens remains unchanged. This fixed ratio, called connector weight, is always in the range between 0% and 100%, defining price elasticity.  In other words, connector weight defines how aggressively the Smart Token price surges in response to buy orders, with 100% representing a stable peg. Smart Tokens can be traded on external exchanges as well, while arbitrage opportunities are expected to eventually even out the prices offered by the Bancor Network and elsewhere. Connector weights and the number of connectors are set by the issuer upon smart contract creation and define the use case scenario of the token. Tokens with total connector weight below 20% are considered liquid. For example, the Bancor Network Token (BNT) has a single ETH connector with a weight of 10%, which makes it relatively stable (in terms of historical volatility) against ETH while leaving room for growth. Configurations with a total connector weight of 100% may have one, two, or more connectors. A configuration with a single connector, called a Proxy Token, makes a stable peg, allowing existing ERC20 tokens to be backward compatible with the Bancor Network. Two or more connectors may be used, such configurations are called Relay and Array tokens, to make a trustless index token with pro rata share adjusted value of connector tokens. The team expects more applications to appear as new features are implemented. The major risk for the Bancor Network is the premise that low cap crypto assets will represent a substantial user base and market share. While virtually any asset can potentially be exchanged on the platform, the team rightly focuses on tokens with low liquidity thus targeting a niche with less competition. Already liquid assets are unlikely to generate volume in the Bancor Network. Indeed, for orders with large volumes the quoted price will likely to be worse than what is offered on high-volume exchanges due to price slippage. To date, the Bancor Network, like other decentralized exchanges has struggled to show substantial daily volume, which is typically range bound between $1-10 million comparing to $1-2 billion for the largest centralized exchanges. It is not clear at the moment if and when the long tail phenomenon will reveal itself for crypto assets. Like other decentralized exchanges, technological risks include the dependence on the underlying Ethereum blockchain and attack vectors on the pricing mechanism, e.g. front-running orders.  While not seriously affecting the operation of the Bancor Network at the moment, such risks may become relevant if the platform succeeds in attaining large trading volumes.
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